During our careers, on one or more occasions we will likely experience work-related stress that makes it difficult for us to cope. So how do we know when we are getting to the stage that we're experiencing burnout?
Burnout is not simply having a few bad days, feeling dissatisfied with your job or rubbish about yourself.
Key indicators include:
-Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion
-Feelings of cynicism
-Lack of connection with others
-A feeling of ineffectiveness
-A sense of lack of achievement at work
It is a lengthy response to chronic stress that can lead to physical health problems, possible depression and a potential to be signed off sick from work for a long time.
Click here if you'd like access to a Free Burnout Report which will give you some insight into how close you are to burnout and the factors that are influencing your situation.
It's fair to say that if you are burned out, downloading Headspace on to your phone and then spending a few days practising mindfulness won't help. Nor will going a few days in the sun. It's a lot more serious than that.
Where does burnout start from?
Children are ferried around to many after school clubs for organised sessions from a young age. They enter competitive events and shows from 3-4 years old. Teenagers are under increasing pressures from many people around them to be the best at anything and everything they do, in and out of school. As they get older, they accumulate debts quickly. Many work long hours or have more than one job with little security whilst being told by people around them that the way forward is to simply work harder.
Are these helpful messages?
Throw into the mix the fact we've been in a challenging economic climate for awhile and there are no signs of this changing. All this is without considering how technology is impacting on us. We're told that having a personal brand is hugely important today and we must actively promote ourselves online at every hour of the day or night.
What does this breed I wonder?
It can make people continually compare themselves with other people and become very competitive. Which means mindreading others, passive aggressive behaviours, unrealistic expectations of ourselves and severe self-criticism can creep up on us and become habitual.
Many people also have an inbuilt reflex for instant fulfilment, a desire to succeed, right now and the wish for quick fixes.
A worrying fact - in 2018, more than 74% of 4500 adults surveyed by the Mental Health Foundation had at some point in the past year felt so stressed they were “overwhelmed or unable to cope”.
What are the solutions?
In Professor Peter Clough's Mental Toughness framework that I base a large part of my work from, the subscale Life Control is highly prevalent:
If you score highly on this scale you will most of the time believe that what you do will make a difference. You are likely to be influential when something needs to be done. Obstacles and setbacks will not get in your way as you will find a way to deal with them.
These thoughts and feelings are far removed from an individual who is experiencing burnout.
Key messages that I often pass on to executives or athletes that I support when they are looking to prevent and manage burnout are:
1. Understand that occasional impasses and setbacks are normal in life and work and do happen to most people.
2. Look to restore the feeling of control by reflecting on your situation and understanding what you can and cannot control.
3. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself some breathing space to recover with a break or working on less demanding projects.
4. Make a note of 3 daily successes, even very small ones.
5. Use visualisation to imagine what success looks and feels like to you. Consider the journey, including the fun parts and the obstacles that will occur, and how you want to feel and look like.
If you are feeling some of the symptoms of burnout complete this Free Burnout Questionnaire to gain a greater understanding of possible causes. Within 24-72 hours of completion I'll happily forward you a free report with some recommendations.
Take a look at some tools available on our website.
Or contact me:
David Charlton, Mental Toughness Coach and HCPC Registered Sport & Exercise Psychologist
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 7734 697769